Should a company owned by Rupert Murdoch and News Corp., already embroiled in an international scandal involving alleged phone-hacking and illegal news gathering, be given a huge no-bid contract to create New York's centralized database for personal student information?
In a strongly written letter to Chancellor Merryl Tisch and State Education Commissioner John King, NYSUT and the United Federation of Teachers are urging SED to reconsider its tentative award of a $27 million no-bid contract to Wireless Generation, a company headed by former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and owned by News Corp.
"Parents and educators have already begun questioning the wisdom of allowing a News Corp.-owned company to have access to the personal data of students from all across New York," says the letter from NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi and UFT President Mike Mulgrew. "Security and privacy are clearly of paramount concern for both parents and educators regardless of the vendor selected by SED and, rightfully so, that concern is significantly heightened when you consider the increasing depth of the current phone-hacking scandal."
NYSUT first raised concerns about the deal in early June when the Daily News reported the contract was being awarded outside the normal bidding process and just weeks after News Corp. brought Klein on board, raising significant conflict of interest questions.
The letter notes that many other vendors were interested in working on the initiative. "We believe the normal procedures should be used to identify a vendor in an open and transparent way that will help to regain the confidence of parents and educators," the letter says.
NYSUT's letter was copied to the Board of Regents, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. The Comptroller's office, which will need to sign off on the no-bid deal, is currently reviewing the contract.